Card present and card not present are two payment processing options that businesses should understand. In this blog, we will help you understand the differences so you can meet your customer’s expectations and keep your processing fees as low as possible.

What Is a Card Present Transaction?

A card present transaction involves processing a payment where you can physically interact with the customer and their card. A transaction is considered “card present” when the customer, their card, and an employee are present.

Card Present Examples

Some common examples of card present examples include using:

  • Countertop credit card machines to physically swipe the card and get payment approval.
  • Point-of-sale (POS) systems with credit card readers.
  • Card readers designed for connecting with mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Card present transactions include contactless payments. They can also use mobile devices with built-in Near-Field Communication (NFC) capabilities. NFC connects your payment terminal with a smartphone app, such as PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Wallet. From there, the smartphone app can transfer funds to your payment terminal.

Card Present Transaction: Pros and Cons

Pro: Card Present Transactions Are More Secure

Merchant account service providers consider card present transactions more secure than card not present transactions. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), credit card fraud is the second-most prevalent type of identity theft. The FTC received more than 88,000 credit card fraud reports in 2021. It also received about 69,750 payment app or service fraud reports.

Card present transactions make it more difficult for criminals to steal and use a person’s payment information. It’s much harder to steal someone’s credit card than to find someone’s credit card number online.

Additionally, you can require a PIN or ZIP code before completing transactions. If the customer doesn’t have the correct number, they cannot complete the purchase.

Con: Card Present Sales Only Work in Face-to-Face Interactions

Card present transactions can only take place in person. If you only have a card present solution, you could miss out on rapidly growing eCommerce and social commerce sales. Global eCommerce sales will likely reach $7.391 trillion by 2025. You don’t want to lose sales to competitors adapting to the popularity of online sales.

Pro: Card Present Transactions Often Have Lower Fees

Payment processors often charge lower fees for card present transactions than card not present transactions. Processors can afford to charge lower rates because card present transactions are more secure and get fewer chargebacks.

You can save even more with a Surcharge Program that lets you pass a portion of your fees on to your customers.

Start keeping more of your business’s revenue by getting approved for an account with National Merchants Association.

What Is a Card Not Present Transaction?

Card not present transactions happen whenever someone pays for a product or service without physically presenting their payment method. These purchases often take place online.

Card Not Present Examples

Some common examples of card not present examples include:

  • Buying products on an eCommerce platform.
  • Paying for subscription services.
  • Purchasing items through online stores or social media sites.

Most card not present transactions take place online, via a computer or mobile device and became essential during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that consumers have gotten used to buying products online, many will continue following the habit. 

Card Not Present Transactions: Pros and Cons

Pro: Diversify Your Payment Processing Options

Businesses face stiff competition and financial challenges as inflation forces consumers to budget more carefully. Diversifying your payment processing options makes it easier for people to shop with your company. In addition, offering more options means that you can attract more customers. As long as you give them solid services and excellent products, you can expect them to become regular customers.

Con: Card Not Present Payments Are Often Less Secure

Credit card terminal security makes it harder for criminals to commit fraud when using credit cards in person. Online payment gateways can improve security, but scammers know they have more opportunities to commit fraud online than in a store.

Security issues with card not present payments could mean you need a high-risk merchant account. However, National Merchants Association knows how to control costs and help companies improve their security standards regardless of where they accept payments.

Pro: Reach Consumers on Social Media

Social media has revolutionized the ways people communicate. Now, it’s changing the way consumers shop. Now, you can sell items and services directly through some of your business’s social media profiles.

Why would you commit to social media sales when you already have an online store? It’s important to remember that shoppers trust recommendations from people they know. Encourage your customers to share their purchases. Their social media connections give you a low-cost, high-return approach to advertising.

Card Present vs. Card Not Present: Which Should You Choose?

The good news is that you don’t have to choose between offering card present or card not present payment options. National Merchants Association can help set you up with both and help you select payment processing solutions that match your customers’ preferences. 

At National Merchants Association, We Work For You™ to find secure solutions for all your payment processing needs. Start the approval process today to access card present and card not present services that work in brick-and-mortar stores, eCommerce stores, and social media posts.


National Merchants Association is a merchant advocacy group dedicated to reducing the unnecessary fees associated with accepting credit card payments. Since 2004, they have delivered tailored payment processing solutions and best-in-class merchant service and support for all levels of risk. Whether it’s high-risk or low-risk, brick-and-mortar or e-commerce, National Merchants Association will create the best processing experience for your business. For more information, visit or call (866) 509-7199.